Canada’s highest court issued a long-awaited ruling, writing in a majority opinion that Ottawa’s Impact Assessment Act (IAA) is largely unconstitutional.
The IAA, formerly known as Bill C-69, allows federal regulators to consider the potential environmental and social impacts of various resource and infrastructure projects. It was enacted in 2019.
The IAA has long been controversial among Alberta conservative politicians, including former premier Jason Kenney, who frequently referred to it as the “no more pipelines law.”
Representing the majority in a 5-2 decision, Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner said the process set out in Sections 81 to 91 of the IAA They were constitutional and could be separated.
Those sections refer to projects carried out or financed by federal authorities on federal lands or outside Canada and therefore fall under federal jurisdiction. These provisions were not challenged as unconstitutional.
However, Wagner wrote that the balance of the plan, which included “designated projects,” was unconstitutional.
According to the IAA, designated projects are those that are established in regulations or are subject to a ministerial order.
“In my opinion, Parliament has clearly exceeded its constitutional jurisdiction by enacting this designated project plan,” Wagner wrote.
Wagner wrote that environmental protection remains one of today’s most pressing challenges, and parliament has the power to enact an environmental assessment plan to address this challenge.
“But Parliament also has a duty to act within the durable framework of separation of powers established in the Constitution,” he wrote.
Dissenting judges Andromache Karakatsanis and Mahmud Jamal wrote that they believed the law was constitutional in its entirety.
The Alberta government had previously challenged the law.
Alberta previously filed a constitutional challenge to the Alberta Court of Appeal, and in a 4-1 decision, the court called the law an “existential threat” when it comes to Canada’s Constitution.
The federal government appealed that non-binding opinion, and the Supreme Court held hearings on the law in March. Today’s decision was highly anticipated by legal experts, who recognized its importance in bringing clarity to an area of law that has long been under debate.
“The words of the court, the opinion of the court, will really define the landscape of federal impact assessment and environmental assessment for decades to come,” David Wright, an associate professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, previously said. Breaking:.
The ruling was part of a “landmark case,” in which the provincial and federal governments asked the courts for advisory opinions.
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson are scheduled to hold a joint virtual news conference Friday morning to respond to the ruling.
More to come.